I am a partial season ticket holder for the Dayton Dragons, so I see between 15-20 home games per season. I’m not a scout, former player, or claim to have any level of expertise above being an observer.

Below is my review of the season for a few players from the 2006 Dayton Dragons season.

Offense

Paul Janish:  (5th round – 2004) Paul finally had a healthy season. After suffering injuries the last two seasons, he was repeating at Dayton, but showed quickly (26 games) that he was ready for promotion. His numbers at Dayton (.398/.435/.612) showed that he probably should have started the season at Sarasota, but the hot year in 2005 by Adam Rosales had the SS job filled at the high A level. Janish struggled early in Sarasota, but by the end of the season had raised his numbers to .277/.355/.421. It wouldn’t surprise me if Paul started the year in AA next year, but I expect him to finish in Chattanooga, no matter where he begins the season.

Jay Bruce: (1st round – 2005) The 19-year-old outfielder proved to be everything the franchise could hope for. The ball seems to rocket off his bat like no one I’ve seen at this level. His numbers on the season are very good (.291/.355/.516). They are incredible when you also consider that in August, he was hurt and only played in 14 games and struggled mightily (.167/.197/.317). He led the MWL in doubles (and I believe I read he also led in extra base hits, but can’t verify that), was 2nd in total bases, 5th in OPS, HR, and RBI. He also stole 19 bases. When he struggled in August and missed most of the month, the team went into a tailspin and missed a playoff opportunity. I’m not blaming Jay, but it shows how important he was offensively to this team. He has a bright, bright, future. He’ll start next season in Sarasota, but baring a “Joey Votto like performance” in the FSL, I don’t expect him to end the season there. I think the only thing that keeps Jay from stardom in the majors is injury. He’s a very special player.


Craig Tatum: (3rd round – 2004) Tatum was coming back from an injury-plagued season in 2005. Craig did nothing but get better as the season went on. His OPS in July and August were .840 and .799 respectively. On the season he put up .277/.344/.408 and also did a very good job defensively .324/.387/.520. Most would say that Miguel Perez is the best catcher in the Reds system, but I think it is Tatum. He’s probably not the defensive catcher that Perez is, but he’s a much better hitter, though he’s coming through the system older than Perez did. I expect him to play all of next season in Sarasota.

BJ Szymanski:
(2nd round – 2004) BJ was healthy in 2006. I have heard rumors of his needing surgery on his knee after the season that would keep him out of the instructional league again this year [he’s missed time in the past because of college, I believe]. Despite being healthy, he didn’t have the type of year that either he or the Reds envisioned. BJ really struggled in April (.173/.264/.383), seemed to rebound in May (.295/.380/.514), but then struggled for the rest of the season.  His numbers on the season were .239/.309/.415. There has been some talk of asking BJ to give up switch hitting and concentrate on hitting from the left side, where his numbers are considerably better. (.670 OPS RH – .874 OPS LH), but only time will tell if that happens. You have to wonder how patient the Reds will be with BJ. He was probably paid a lot of bonus money when he signed, so they want to see what he can do, but this was his second year at Dayton and he’ll be 24 in October. He didn’t really do anything to merit being pushed to Sarasota, but he’s close with Jay Bruce, there’s no real prospect outfielders in Sarasota to hold him back, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they sent him up there to see what he can do.

Adam Rosales: (12th round – 2005) Adam started the year in Sarasota, but had some injury problems and then struggled with his offense after returning. He was sent back to Dayton when Paul Janish was promoted. His numbers in 55 games at Dayton were reasonable (.270/.328/.419), but they pale in comparison to what he accomplished in 32 games there in ’05. (.328/.378/.590), which had earned him the spot on the Sarasota roster to start the season. Rosales also was injured late in the season for the Dragons. At the time he was the team’s second best offensive player and his loss was another reason the team faded down the stretch. If Janish moves up to Chattanooga, I expect Rosales to move up to Sarasota. If Janish stays in Sarasota to start the season, it will be interesting in Dayton because Chris Valiaka had a heck of a season at Billings (.324/.387/.520) and will be looking to move up and play A Ball. Rosales is another 23 year old that needs to start moving through the system, if he intends to make the big leagues.

Pitching

Carlos Fisher: (11th round – 2005) Carlos had a better year at Dayton in ’06 than he did at Billings in ’05 (ERA 4.19 WHIP 1.58). He led the team in wins (12) and innings pitched. His ERA was 2.76 and his WHIP was 1.14. He seemed to get stronger as the season went along, posting an ERA of 2.76 in July and 1.73 in August (while going 4-0). He seems to have proven everything he needs to prove at Low A, I would expect to see him start next season in Sarasota. If he pitches like he did this year, a mid-year promotion would not be unreasonable.

Travis Wood: (2nd round – 2005) The 19 year old had a solid season for the Dragons. He won 10 games, was tied for the team lead in number of starts, was second in innings pitched, and led the team in strikeouts. His ERA of 3.66 and WHIP of 1.17 are both very good, especially considering his age. He wasn’t as consistent as Fisher, struggling a bit in April and in July (6.06 ERA), but regained his momentum in August with a 3.33 ERA. Like Fisher, I don’t believe Wood has any more to prove at this level and would expect to see him at Sarasota next year.

Johnny Cueto: (UFA – 2004) Next to Homer Bailey, probably the most promising pitcher in the system right now. Johnny spent half the season at Dayton, going 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA and a WHIP of .88. He also threw a 7 inning no hitter. He struck out 82 batters in 76 innings at Dayton. He pitched nearly as well after being promoted to Sarasota (7-2, 3.50 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). And he’s only 20 years old. I’m guessing that Johnny will start the season next year in Sarasota, but could be in Chattanooga by June 1st.

Jose A. Rojas: Jose has a very strange history. He was signed by the Dodgers in ’99, then by the Pirates in ’01, then by the Reds in ’03. And he’s only 23 years old. His numbers have been from mediocre to impressive, depending on where and when you look at them. This year he pitched 25 games for the Dragons, throwing 42 innings and striking out 63 batters. His ERA was 1.07 and his WHIP was 1.17. But as to his future? I have no idea. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back here next year as the closer to start the season, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in Sarasota either. Strange situation on this guy.

Derrick Lutz: (19th round – 2006) Dayton was Derrick’s 3rd stop this year after pitching for George Washington, being drafted by the Reds and throwing a couple of games for the GCL Reds, he was sent to Dayton. He threw 13 games for the Dragons, accumulating 26 innings, striking out 22. His ERA was 2.39 and his WHIP was 1.41. He’ll be 22 next year, shortly after Opening Day. I would expect him to be a Dragon again next year along with a boatload of 2006 draftees.

Disclaimer: Russell Haltiwanger and Bo Lanier are special cases for me. I’ve met them, spent a couple hours talking baseball with them and like them personally. So, I’ll do my best to be unbiased when discussing their careers, but I’m not promising I’ll be able to do so.

Russell Haltiwanger: (29th pick – 2005) Russell pitched in 40 games for the Dragons with a 4.15 ERA and a WHIP of 1.42. He struck out 78 batters in 82 innings, but averaged almost 5 walks per 9 innings. Towards the end of the season, when the Dragons were short on starting pitching, Russell was put into the rotation. I can’t find his starting number, but it seemed like he did reasonably well, but because of his control problems, his pitch counts were high and he rarely got past the 4th inning, but this in only operating from memory. My concern is that the organization doesn’t know what role they want Russell to fill, so it’s difficult for him to fill an undefined role. If I had to venture a guess, I would guess that Russell would start next season in Dayton.

Bo Lanier: (10th round – 2005) Bo was another pitcher whose role seemed to change a lot for the Dragons this season. He was at times a set-up guy, the closer, and late in the year, a multiple inning guy. His numbers are fairly impressive (3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and would be even more so, but he had a very bad August (6.06 ERA, 1.75 WHIP). Bo’s weakness is also the walk, almost 4 per 9 innings. He led the Dragons in appearances despite not being on the Opening Day roster and was second on the team in saves. I would expect Bo to open next season pitching in Sarasota.